Great science fiction can widen our horizons, and challenge our assumptions about space, time, and humanity. Movies in particular allow the wonder and imagination of sci-fi storytelling to take flight. By combining dynamic, breathtaking visuals with imaginative storylines, science fiction films can be truly transportive—even if you're just streaming at home from the comfort of your couch.
Check out our recommendations below for 14 of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix. From the horrific to the heartwarming, these sci-fi flicks dare to reimagine life as we know it.
This post will be updated periodically to reflect changes to streaming.
Never Let Me Go
Based on the celebrated novel by Nobel Award-winner Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go follows Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth, all students at a boarding school called Hailsham. The students at Hailsham navigate the typical adolescent perils, although they're not typical teenagers. Their lives have a singular, sinister purpose—one that Kathy and her friends are only beginning to grasp.
Found footage is a genre usually reserved for the likes of horror movies–and Europa Report, though technically a sci-fi thriller, is indeed horrifying on many levels. Told entirely through footage “recovered” from the Europa One mission, we learn the story of its crew: six astronauts who journeyed to one of Jupiter’s moons looking for sources of life, only to find themselves in dangerously over their heads.
This Academy Award-winning epic 2005 remake of the 1933 classic will satisfy all your cravings for giant creature action. Set in 1933, this Peter Jackson-directed film follows an expedition to Skull Island in the South Pacific. The voyage returns to America with a giant gorilla named Kong in tow. But when "the Eighth Wonder of the World" is introduced to New York City, actress Ann Darrow and playwright Jack Driscoll will have to reconsider what it truly means to be a monster.
If you want to add a little German expressionism to your night in, Metropolis is the movie for you! In all seriousness, this 1927 film had a huge impact on the aesthetic of science fiction as a whole, and is worth checking out if only to see iconic imagery that continues to influence the genre today. The story is set in a future dystopia, and follows the attempts of a working-class girl and a member of the bourgeoisie to bridge the city's stark class divide.
Heralded by critics as Netflix’s first great film and from the mind of Snowpiercer’s Joon-ho Bong, this emotionally wrenching drama doubles as an environmental morality tale. Okja is a thoughtful, visually awing and perpetually relevant criticism of our food systems that’s delivered through a relationship between genetically modified pig Okja and her young owner. Forewarning: watching will probably make you experience every emotion ever.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Rogue One follows a ragtag group of rebels as they join forces to stop the construction of the destructive Death Star. The epic space opera was critically praised for its acting, writing and special effects, and its messages about resistance and hope make this one of the franchise’s best showings.
Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow
In this alternate history “gearpunk” film, Jude Law and Angelina Jolie star as Earth’s last defense against flying robot attacks. While the story may not be Oscar-worthy, the film’s blend of live-action and CGI help make this piece of World War II historical fiction a compelling case for genre-mashing.
The Truman Show
This surprisingly haunting movie stars Jim Carrey as everyman Truman Burbank, who enjoys an idyllic existence in the town of Seahaven Island. But when Truman begins to find clues everywhere that his life in Seahaven may not be as simple as it seems, the truth comes out: Truman is actually the unwitting star of a 24-hour reality television program that is broadcast around the globe. The entirety of his 30 years of life have been orchestrated to make him a compelling and captive subject for TV, and escaping his role as reality star may cost Truman his life.
This adaptation of Lois Lowry’s famed young adult dystopian novel is so true to its source material, you’ll want to keep tissues handy. Relative newcomer Brenton Thwaites and the award-winning Jeff Bridges star as the Receivers of Memory, people tasked with bearing the historical memories of their emotionless society. Shot in black and white—a tribute to the way things are seen in Lowry’s book—the film is a somber message about the importance of preserving our humanity.
The Iron Giant
A mix of traditional and computer animation, The Iron Giant became an instant hit when it landed in theaters during the summer of 1999. It’s not hard to see why. Based on the touching Ted Hughes 1968 novel The Iron Man, this Cold-War story follows the friendship between a young boy and a massive iron giant that falls from space.
The third movie from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, Chappie is set in a near-future dystopian South Africa. Order in Johannesburg is maintained by an army of human-like droids, but their creator Deon (Dev Patel) longs to build an artificial intelligence capable of more than tactical violence. Using the parts of a police droid damaged in the line of duty, Deon experiments with a new artificial consciousness that could allow droids to emulate human intuition and emotions.
Given that intriguing plot and the success of Blomkamp's first feature, expectations were high for Chappie, and the movie by and large doesn't live up to them. However, if you're a fan of District 9 or if you're interested in the ethics of robotics and the questions surrounding artificial intelligence, it's certainly worth a watch at home.
World of Tomorrow
In this irresistibly cute and poignant 16-minute short film, one three-year-old girl is paid a visit by her much older future self. Communicating with her clone from 227 years into the future, the young girl’s journey explores life's constant balance between sadness and salvation, loneliness and joy. It's a disarmingly emotional story set against the incredible imagery animated by Don Hertzfeldt, who also wrote, directed, and produced the short.
Men in Black
This 90's comedy sci-fi hit is an ideal watch on a night when you're feeling nostalgic for the days of Aqua, butterfly clips, and pre-Y2K hysteria. Decades after aliens first made contact with humans, extraterrestrial refugees now live undercover on Earth, unbeknownst to nearly everyone but the brave agents of the Men in Black. Tasked with maintaining intergalactic peace and keeping the presence of aliens on Earth a secret, the Men in Black have their work cut out for them when a skin-stealing bug alien begins wreaking havoc across New York.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The Guardians of the Galaxy are back, and they're bigger a-holes than ever. In this sequel to 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, families reunite, with cataclysmic consequences. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) finally meets his father, but the reunion is stranger than he could have anticipated. Meanwhile, the feud between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) comes to a violent head.
Featured still from "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" via Marvel